USF women look to build off progress made last season

The USF women’s basketball team may finally be breaking a dismal pattern that has hung over the program the past several seasons.

Last year’s team recorded its first 10-win season (12-19) since 2007-08 and scored a 32-point win over Pepperdine in the first round of the West Coast Conference tournament. Coach Jennifer Azzi hopes it was a sign of a turning of the tide for the Dons.

“The program itself has just needed confidence,” she said. “Being in a situation that’s been historically so bad, there’s almost a mind-set that gets passed down. It’s kind of breaking away from that. I think last year really started to separate.”

Last year’s feat was made even more incredible by the fact that injuries left the team with as few as six active players at times, and just seven for its conference tournament appearance.

Sophomore point guard Zhané Dikes said that led to some well-deserved attention.

“That just shows that with only seven players and still being able to get that postseason win, how strong we really are,” she said. “Now that we have pretty much a full roster, we’re going to do tremendous things.”

A handful of players are still recuperating from various injuries sustained last season, but overall Azzi said the team is working hard to make sure last year was no fluke.

The job is made tougher by the fact that the Dons have a young roster and that Dikes is still making the transition from her natural position as a shooting guard to running the offense on the floor.

Junior guard Taj Winston said that means the older players have a responsibility to instill one simple message to their younger teammates.

“That we need to win,” she said. “That’s pretty much it, that we need to win. We don’t want to have another season like last season, we want to do better than what we did before.”

The team heads to New York to play Fordham on Friday and Columbia on Sunday before returning home to next week. Conference play will begin at Santa Clara on Dec. 30.

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